Sammye Kempbell

Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year

Sammye Kempbell of Coupeville is the 2011 Jan Holmes Island County Coastal Volunteer of the Year. She became a WSU Beach Watcher in 2003 and has logged more than 4,000 hours of volunteer time making 41,000 contacts with members of the public, providing beach naturalist interpretive services to school children and speaking about the shoreline at summer festivals, conferences and directly with tourists.

A tragic irony of the shoreline is how easily well-meaning people can wreak destruction unknowingly if not guided in their explorations. At Rosario Beach in Deception Pass State Park, a small pocket of rocky tidepools constitutes an extraordinary nearshore treasure. Low tides expose fragile sea life to the threat of devastating damage from thousands of visitors. On one particularly tragic day, just a single visit to this beach by busloads of school children resulted in severe damage.

Kempbell made it her mission to solve this problem by educating the beach-going public, investing thousands of hours in meeting tour groups and other visitors, welcoming them and explaining the fragility of the shoreline. In 2011, she collaborated with state park staff, the Deception Pass Park Foundation, WSU Island County Beach Watchers and Lighthouse Environmental Programs to launch a formal beach naturalist program. She recruited and trained volunteers, sought funding and organized partnerships with other organizations. The program in 2011 developed a team of 24 trained naturalists who provided interpretive services at 104 low tides at Rosario during the heavily-visited summer months.